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Saturday, June 30, 2012

One Week on One Chapter

Last week I gave myself an interesting goal: study a particular chapter of the Bible a little every day and see what I can get out of it. The problem is that most of my Bibles and study materials (some of which appear in the picture at the top of this post from a year and a half ago) are currently in storage because of a move last year. But I do still have a number of resources at my disposal, and I decided to see what I could come up with!

The first day I read the passage from the New Living Translation (which is what my pastor uses during his messages) from my NLT Life Application Study Bible. This gave me a basic overview of the passage, plus some real-world applications. I don't really have a lot of trust for the NLT as a study text (not for inductive study methods, anyway) but it reads easily and it's certainly good enough to give you an idea of what the writer is talking about.

There was something that was puzzling me, hinging around one specific word in the passage, so the next day I fired up the Logos app on my phone. It's kind of a little brother to the Logos/Libronix software you can buy for your computer. It's actually pretty good for doing light Bible study using a phone; the screen can divide into two parts which hold different translations or books, and it can do some simple word study kind of stuff. It's nowhere as good as the desktop version, but I just had my phone handy at the time, and it satisfied my curiosity. I read the passage again using the New American Standard Version on the phone, and it is tied in to the Greek/Hebrew stuff, so it was simple to do my word study.

The next day I fired up and read the chapter through in the Holman Christian Standard Version. I actually used my phone browser for this, and it worked out reasonably well. I still wasn't 100% satisfied with my word study results from the Logos app, and has a terrific "click the underlined word to see the Greek or Hebrew source word" thing going on, and it clarified what I had discovered the day before. And you can't beat the price for using the HCSB Study Bible on this site... free!

The next day I read the chapter in the ESV translation on On this site you can read the ESV Study Bible notes, and although there is a minimal cost to access them, I highly recommend it; the ESV Study Bible is still my preferred study Bible. The notes were terrific; I was really getting a good handle on what I had been reading all week.

The next day I pulled out my NIV Study Bible to read the passage in the New International Version. This is my second favorite study Bible, a close runner-up to the ESV Study Bible. The NIV is probably my second-favorite translation, too... I thought for a while that the HCSB was going to take over that spot, but I've been disappointed with the translation in a few spots... maybe I'll blog about some of them one day. I still like the Holman translation, but I like the NIV better. This is an older copy of the NIV Study Bible, so this is the 1984 NIV, although I have no problem with the parts I've read from the newest edition.

The next day I pulled out the Life Application Study Bible and went through the chapter again in that book; I wanted to see if what I read made better sense to me after being through the chapter so many times. Sure enough, the text and the study notes were more meaningful to me this time through than before. I must have learned something!

How much did I pay to do all of this? Nothing! Of course, I already had the materials at my disposal; maybe you own a study Bible or two, or maybe you don't. But there are plenty of Bible study resources online; you could study a passage for weeks just using the resources on Blue Letter Bible alone and never run out, and that site is free!

I used a couple of physical volumes in my study, but the astonishing fact is that I did most of my study of this passage (it was 1 Peter 1, by the way, but it could have been any chapter) using only my low-powered Android cell phone! Just a few years ago that would have been science fiction; these days there are a wealth of materials available to anyone with a smart phone, anywhere they have a data connection (or in some cases, even without a data connection). With only the meager resources at my disposal, I did a study that would have taken hours in a physical library full of Bible commentaries fifteen years ago. We are truly blessed these days with a rich variety of sources of information about the Bible literally at our fingertips.

The real question here is: why do Christians not have a deeper understanding of the teachings of the Bible? With all of these resources available, there is no reason every Christian couldn't know as much about the Word as a graduating seminary student a half-century ago. Why don't we?

I'll leave you to answer that question yourself in the comments section below.

Monday, June 18, 2012


'Washington Monument Halo' photo (c) 2006, - license:
Forgiveness. It'll clear the bitterness away.
It can even set a prisoner free...
The prisoner that it really frees is you.
In the past few years I've really been getting into the tween/teen book series by Rick Riordan. You've probably heard of Percy Jackson, if not from the half-dozen or so books about him and his friends, at least from the Disney movie that came out several years ago which was based on the first Percy Jackson book. Riordan has written several other series, and a while back my tween son got me interested in another one of them, "The Kane Chronicles." Last week I read the brand-new book in this series, The Serpent's Shadow. In the story, a huge supernatural snake is on the verge of destroying the world, but a part of him his "shadow" in the story — is stuck. It is pinned to the ground by an obelisk (like the Washington Monument), and no matter how it writhes and struggles, the serpent can't get loose. (Fortunately, the heroes manage to defeat him and save the world, but that's not really what this blog post is about!)

This morning on my commute I heard the words I quoted above on the radio in a new song by Matthew West called "Forgiveness." I thought they were so apt and so true. Of course it's true that knowing they are forgiven can be a relief to the person you are forgiving, but sometimes the person who has wronged us doesn't even know he or she has done so. What about the person who cuts you off in traffic? (That did not happen to me during the Matthew West song, by the way!) What about a friend who says something to you on the telephone that they had no way of knowing would cause you pain because of some factor they didn't know about? Or what about someone who hurts you without doing anything wrong and without even realizing it? In all of those cases, the forgiveness technically is extended to that person, but the person who experiences the relief is you. That unforgiveness was the obelisk that was keeping you pinned to the ground, struggling to get free. But unlike the serpent's shadow, you have the power to release yourself.

Here's a video of Matthew West performing the whole song live, including West's account of the incident that inspired the song. Please enjoy it... and then choose to free yourself by forgiving someone today.


Here's a list of Scripture verses about forgiveness.

Monday, June 11, 2012

God Loves You

Did you know that God loves you?

Wait a second. Let's really consider that statement.

God LOVES you.

The human love that we feel for our children, family, friends, or whoever... that love, at its very purest and best, is a pale reflection of God's love for us. God draws pictures in the physical world of things that exist in His dimension to help us understand Him. Love is one of those things.

When you think God is doing something to hurt you, neglect you, be mean to you, or otherwise mistreat you, step back for a minute and remember:

God loves you.

Would you do the things you suspect God of to someone you loved with all of your heart? Would you put that person through the kind of thing you think God is putting you through? Would you delight in that person's pain as you knowingly created the situation you are in and placed the jewel of your heart in the middle of it?

If what you think God is doing does not look like Love to you, then it might pay to look elsewhere for the cause of the problem you are facing. Because God is omnipotent. God can do anything... and




Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blue Like Jazz (the book this time)

So, a few weeks ago I blogged about the Blue Like Jazz movie. The movie is loosely based on the book by the same name, and although I read the book several years ago I didn't remember much about it, so I decided to read it again. My reaction to it this time was very different this time from the last time... almost like reading a different book. Here's what I wrote about it on Goodreads.

I read this book several years ago, and remember enjoying it, but coming away from it with the impression that Miller spent most of his time walking around seeking out people to have long, introspective conversations with. It seemed like he was mostly full of questions and not much full of answers, and never really quite getting to the point.

That whole impression has changed this time. Yes, Miller is full of questions. Yes, he does seem to seek out deep conversations with people, and he doesn't seem to come out having a bunch of definitive answers like most Christian authors seem to. But I think that is the key in this whole thing. When we think we have all of the answers... or, dare I say it, when we think we have full understanding of any of the answers? ...we're fooling ourselves. God is a mystery, and always will be, outside of what of Himself he reveals by His Spirit. And the fact is, as mortal human beings, we couldn't take the full impact of knowing everything about God if He revealed it all to us. God's too big for that.

This time through the book I realized that although at first glance, Miller doesn't seem to have any definitive answers like maybe some other author seems to, he does in fact come to a separate, useful conclusion at the end of each chapter. But he never claims to have all of the answers. In fact, part of what he seems to be communicating is that we need each other because none of us will ever have all of the answers. The truth that you understand can augment the truth that I understand, and vice versa. By communicating with each other, having introspective and even not-introspective conversations and interactions, each of us can come into a fuller understanding of God, mankind's relationship with Him, and the relationship each of us individually has with Him.

I read another review which compared this book to a blog; it does sort of have a bloggy, chatty flavor to it. Don't come to it thinking that you're going to read a book that has a larger theme; it does have one (the theme of the book is that the Christian life is hard to describe and you have to live it as it comes, like a good jazz musician plays the music as it comes, interacting with his bandmates and improvising based on what they do) but each chapter has its own focus. The book itself is actually a little bit like a jazz suite with many movements that don't seem at first listen to be related, outside of the instrumentation and basic musical style, but the more of them you experience, the more connections you begin to understand. I think it pays to read it sort of like a devotional... read one chapter at a time and stew on each one a bit before advancing to the next. Each movement of the suite needs to stand on its own two feet before you advance to the next one.

I think part of the reason I'm seeing this book differently than I did several years ago is because of growth I've experienced in my own life and relationship with God. Miller says in the book: "I used to not like jazz... now I do like jazz." I used to not like this book as much as I do now. I would recommend giving it a chance... or a second chance.